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Farmers don’t do mental health

A baby boomer and millennial farmer overcome stigma and circumstance to normalize mental health in rural America.

6 Min Read
Young wojman smiles as she pours milk into a cup
NEVER TOO YOUNG: Elizabeth Golombiecki’s childhood on a dairy farm was full of fun and chores. But when her father died, she faced major decisions for the family operation. And she reached out for help to carry the emotional weight. Courtesy of Elizabeth Golombiecki

Editor’s note: This is the first in a three-part series as Farm Progress focuses on mental health awareness for our nation’s farmers and ranchers during Mental Health Month. We will feature more information from specialists, along with resources in the coming weeks on

Two Minnesota farmers are on a mental wellness journey and believe others should join them.

Bob Worth’s and Elizabeth Golombiecki’s jobs are demanding, as weather, economics and even isolation can create extreme stress, anxiety and depression. Worth, a baby boomer, is a row crop producer from Lake Benton; and Golombiecki, a millennial, is a dairy farmer near Morris.

When it comes to dealing with mental health challenges in rural America, does one generation handle it better than another?

In the 1980s, Worth was in the throes of the farm crisis. Personal issues were not openly discussed, especially not in farming communities.

“I never said a word to anybody because there was no way big macho farmers were talking about mental health,” Worth says.

Kevin Schulz - Bob Worth, President of Minnesota Soybean Growers Association

Unlike older generations, Golombiecki does not feel a stigma around mental health. Getting counseling is not a “bad thing” for young ag producers.

Nearly 45% of millennials are more likely to go to therapy, while only 8% of baby boomers will visit a specialist, according to a survey by OnePoll.

“When my dad died, there was not time to grieve in the conventional sense,” Golombiecki says. “There were still chores to be done. So, when I started to seek counseling, I was not in a crisis. I just needed to work through some things.”

Neither the statistics, stigma nor circumstances stopped Worth and Golombiecki from reaching out for help. Now, they share their stories to encourage all generations of farmers to seek support for strengthening their mental health.

Boomer makes it through farm crisis

Worth remembers not wanting to do anything. “I just stayed in the house,” he says. “I didn’t care if I got out of bed.”

It was in the mid-1980s, and Worth had taken over his father’s farm in 1981 after working alongside him since 1970. “And in 1986, all heck broke loose,” he says, referring to the farm crisis that changed a lot of lives.

More than 900 Midwest farmers — all men — died by suicide in that fateful decade. While Worth doesn’t remember attempting or contemplating suicide, he says he “went into a severe case of depression.”

Like other farmers in that decade, he wasn’t talking, so his wife, Gail, stepped in.

“She saw that I was really deteriorating and said, ‘You’re going to the doctor,’” he recalls. “I mean nobody’s ever gone to the doctor for mental health. Nobody. But I did; she made me go.”

At the time, there wasn’t a focus on general mental health well-being.

“I got a young doctor that was probably working on mental health, and he really, really helped me,” Worth says. “It took a year to get me on the right medication, but he got me straightened out.”

A few years ago, Worth started sharing his story through TransFarmation, a podcast series highlighting the need to be open and to talk about farm stress and its impact on mental health.

At a farm show, a man approached Worth with a sobering tale. “He said, ‘I want to thank you; you saved my life. I was going to commit suicide, and I listened to your story, and I thought about my grandkids, and I went and got some help.’”

Worth, who is also president of the Minnesota Soybean Growers Association, says he often wondered if telling his story was doing any good. “I said right there that I’ll tell my story forever — because if I just help one person, it’s worth it.”

Millennial tackles sudden farm stress

Five years ago, Golombiecki’s father died. The responsibility for the future of the dairy farm fell to the then-22-year-old Golombiecki and her 23-year-old brother. And it started the moment their father died.

“Dairy farming doesn’t stop,” she says. “I remember the day my dad died. He’d been in hospice. I had to call my brother in from the barn to tell him we needed to stop the chores coming, because this was it. We were all there. After he passed, we had to head out and finish chores. We even had to schedule the funeral in between milkings, because we don’t have someone to do that for us.”

Not being able to pause and process the loss of her father weighed on Golombiecki. But it was more than dealing with grief — the concern over the farm kept creeping to the front of her thoughts.

“When I’m milking, there’s not much else I can do but think,” she says. “I sometimes get down a rabbit hole, and it’s like, ‘Holy cow, how did I get here?’”

A friend encouraged Golombiecki to call Monica McConkey, a rural mental health specialist with Eyes on the Horizon Consulting in Minnesota. McConkey grew up in agriculture and provides counseling for farmers and their families.

For nearly two years, the pair visited at least monthly, often weekly or biweekly, in person or via Zoom.

Through sessions, they tackle challenges — loss of a father, struggling dairy prices, working with family, being young, driving the farm’s future, guilt of taking time off and the isolation of being a woman in agriculture.

While it can be emotionally draining at times, Golombiecki says talking with a counselor who understands her industry and plight helps.

“It is so easy to get down on yourself,” Golombiecki shares. “What we’ve worked on is positive reassurance. I take a step back, take myself out of the situation for a moment and look at where I’ve come.”

Today, Golombiecki is still farming. “We’re doing better than before,” she says. “I don’t have an off-farm job anymore. I’m using money wisely to keep the farm going. Sure, I can have bad days, but it is not a bad life.” 

Right time to find support

Individuals don’t have to have anything “wrong” in order to seek out a mental health professional.

“You can be a happy-go-lucky person all the time. But still, just having that counselor and having that relationship established before you’re in crisis maybe keeps you from ever getting to a crisis,” Golombiecki notes. “Just talking to someone, getting it out to somebody else, makes such a big difference. Everybody needs somebody.”

If you or someone you know needs support, call or text 988, or visit

About the Author(s)

Kevin Schulz

Editor, The Farmer

Kevin Schulz joined The Farmer as editor in January of 2023, after spending two years as senior staff writer for Dakota Farmer and Nebraska Farmer magazines. Prior to joining these two magazines, he spent six years in a similar capacity with National Hog Farmer. Prior to joining National Hog Farmer, Schulz spent a long career as the editor of The Land magazine, an agricultural-rural life publication based in Mankato, Minn.

During his tenure at The Land, the publication grew from covering 55 Minnesota counties to encompassing the entire state, as well as 30 counties in northern Iowa. Covering all facets of Minnesota and Iowa agriculture, Schulz was able to stay close to his roots as a southern Minnesota farm boy raised on a corn, soybean and hog finishing farm.

One particular area where he stayed close to his roots is working with the FFA organization.

Covering the FFA programs stayed near and dear to his heart, and he has been recognized for such coverage over the years. He has received the Minnesota FFA Communicator of the Year award, was honored with the Minnesota Honorary FFA Degree in 2014 and inducted into the Minnesota FFA Hall of Fame in 2018.

Schulz attended South Dakota State University, majoring in agricultural journalism. He was also a member of Alpha Gamma Rho fraternity and now belongs to its alumni organization.

His family continues to live on a southern Minnesota farm near where he grew up. He and his wife, Carol, have raised two daughters: Kristi, a 2014 University of Minnesota graduate who is married to Eric Van Otterloo and teaches at Mankato (Minn.) East High School, and Haley, a 2018 graduate of University of Wisconsin-River Falls. She is married to John Peake and teaches in Hayward, Wis. 

When not covering the agriculture industry on behalf of The Farmer's readers, Schulz enjoys spending time traveling with family, making it a quest to reach all 50 states — 47 so far — and three countries. He also enjoys reading, music, photography, playing basketball, and enjoying nature and campfires with friends and family.

[email protected]

Mindy Ward

Editor, Missouri Ruralist

Mindy resides on a small farm just outside of Holstein, Mo, about 80 miles southwest of St. Louis.

After graduating from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural journalism, she worked briefly at a public relations firm in Kansas City. Her husband’s career led the couple north to Minnesota.

There, she reported on large-scale production of corn, soybeans, sugar beets, and dairy, as well as, biofuels for The Land. After 10 years, the couple returned to Missouri and she began covering agriculture in the Show-Me State.

“In all my 15 years of writing about agriculture, I have found some of the most progressive thinkers are farmers,” she says. “They are constantly searching for ways to do more with less, improve their land and leave their legacy to the next generation.”

Mindy and her husband, Stacy, together with their daughters, Elisa and Cassidy, operate Showtime Farms in southern Warren County. The family spends a great deal of time caring for and showing Dorset, Oxford and crossbred sheep.

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